Former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, who resigned in the wake of the damning Health Ombudsman report that fingered her department for negligence for the death of 94 mentally ill patients, on Wednesday said she regretted the loss of lives following the transfer of the patients from Life Esidimeni Centre to nongovernmental organisations.
Mahlangu said she requested the investigation by Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba last year after patients died at the NGOs, and that the investigation did not find any wrongdoing on her part.
“Whereas the Health Ombud has not found any culpability on my part for the unfortunate loss of lives by the patients, accepting that the deinstitutionalisation of mental health patients is a sound and internationally recognised programme, I want to reiterate my regret at the loss of lives associated with the transfer of patients from Life Esidimeni to the various NGOs and extend my condolences to the bereaved families,” she said in a statement.
“I support every initiative intended to assist and support the families.”
The deaths occurred under her leadership as health MEC, and she therefor took political accountability as the final authority in the department, she said.
“For that reason, it is apposite that I tendered my resignation as the MEC for health, Gauteng. I wish to express my gratitude to the health professionals and managers in the department who I have been privileged to work with, whose professional advice, I, at all material times, respected and accepted. I thus wish them well and hope they continue to serve the people of Gauteng with diligence and devotion.”
Makgoba revealed on Wednesday that in contrast to the widely reported deaths of 36 patients, at least 94 psychiatric patients had actually died between March 2015 and December 2016, after they were moved from the department’s contractor Life Esidimeni to several NGOs.
“On the 13th of September  when the MEC [Mahlangu] made her announcement that 36 patients had died, actually it was 77 patients who had already died by that date. Why she didn’t know that information, I cannot answer but the patients had already died because their dates of death are recorded. The public needs to ask why she didn’t know,” Makgoba told reporters in Pretoria.
Mahlangu cited costs as the reason for the transfer of the patients.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura announced Mahlangu’s resignation, and said the provincial government took full responsibility of the deaths. His provincial government would implement every recommendation stated in Makgoba’s report, he said.
– African News Agency